When Jerry Springer Comes to Church
Written by Pastor Jim Law
Jerry Springer has become the buzzword in our culture for trashy, raunchy television. It is a program in which the producers troll the culture for the most deviant behavior, and then bring these shameful, hurtful situations to the television screen showcasing them as entertainment.
Some time ago during a scheduled oil change for my car, I was in the waiting room and caught a brief excerpt of the show. The topic of the program was twisted, profane and without shame as the theme seemed to capitalize on the ignorance of the guests and the foolishness of the audience.
The Jerry Springer Show represents a genre of television that thrives in our culture. At one time, Mr. Springer’s salary was $6 million a year to host the hour-long anarchy. Such programming seems to flesh out the devastating progression of sin described in Romans 1.
However, let me be clear, my purpose in bringing this up is not to throw rocks at Jerry Springer, or those of his ilk. I’m not railing against the culture. As John Piper has wisely stated, “Salt doesn’t mock rotting meat.” They are what they are, and believers are called to be light and salt in a world careening out of control in a downward spiral to destruction.
That being said, my issue is when The Jerry Springer Show comes to the Church of Jesus Christ and takes up residence as acceptable behavior. My sorrow is when sinful behavior is undisciplined by the Church, even when her Savior has given specific instruction on how sin is to be dealt with among God’s people (Matthew 18:15-20).
We know this is not new. We only need to turn to I Corinthians to see such neglect.
In this letter, the Apostle Paul’s response to the Corinthians was one of indignation. He takes this congregation to task for their allowance of known and unrepentant immorality, arrogance, and selfishness.
He describes sin in the Corinthian Church as a “leaven” which threatened to permeate the entire batch of dough (I Corinthians 5:6-8). In speaking to an issue of immorality so out-of-bounds that even the pagan world thought it was horrid, Paul calls this congregation to deal with it lest it spread further.
This vivid illustration of sin teaches us that believers are not allowed to “bury their heads in the sand” and hope sin issues in the Body just go away. Sin doesn’t just go away. Rather, it spreads like gangrene and causes greater problems and a weakened testimony of God’s saving work through Jesus Christ.
Paul calls the Corinthians to discipline in accord with the teachings of their Savior. The call is no different for us. The New Testament is not silent regarding church discipline: I Corinthians 5:1-13; 2 Thessalonians 3:11-15; I Timothy 1:18-20; I Timothy 5:19,20; Titus 3:9-11.
If there is clarity, then what is the problem? Why does there appear to be a slow acceptance by God’s people to these stated truths? Perhaps our hesitancy is the result of being more nourished by the teachings of Dr. Benjamin Spock than the teachings of the New Testament? Maybe we have resigned ourselves to just believing that we’re all sinners and who are we to judge?
Maybe we have ruled out church discipline in Baptist life because of known abuses that have tainted the whole subject in our minds? We remember reading “The Scarlett Letter” in high school and were outraged by how Hester Prynne was treated.
But this rationale flies in the face of New Testament instruction, in that a believer is to be a lifelong repenter. A believer is to understand that our Savior’s dying prayer was that we would sin no more. Yes, there is a fountain of grace that is greater than all of our sin. However, there is no provision to presume on such amazing grace. The message to every sinner in the New Testament is to turn to Christ and sin no more.
And when that does not happen, we must come to terms with the fact that it is the church’s duty to address it with redemption and restoration as the goal. Unless we are able to declare behavior sinful, and discipline it accordingly, our ability to be light and salt to a world that feeds on Jerry Springer will be minimal indeed.
In fact, left unchecked, “Jerry Springer Show” type behavior will come to church and like the adulterous woman described in Proverbs 30 will say with no shame, “I have done nothing wrong.”
How can we call the culture to repentance if we live with utter disregard for upholding God’s holiness? We must remember whose we are and that our Lord walks among His lampstand, the Church. He has called us to be holy, as He is holy.
The Apostle John with striking apocalyptic language speaks of the living, resurrected, enthroned Christ as One whose head and hair are white like wool, like snow, and whose eyes are like a flame of fire. (Revelation 1:14) He is a holy Savior, and with penetrating gaze He looks into His church and sees everything.
John Dagg, a respected voice in Baptist history once wrote, “When discipline leaves a church, Christ goes with it.” For some that may be just fine, but not for those who see the church as the Bride and Body of Christ.